At long last, I’m back with another scribbed recollection of my swimming misadventures. This one is less a comic strip than a single portrait (a “splash” page if you will, oh ho ho!) of one of the more… erm… colourful characters I have encountered at my local pool. Perhaps you’ll meet him in the changing room showers. Or in your nightmares…
I was up at 6:15am, and after showering, shaving and getting dressed, I went downstairs for breakfast. Like last year, my hotel offered a free continental breakfast, though last year’s hotel probably offered a better selection. Still, I was able to get enough to set me up for the day.
As those who have read my “Tales From the Pool” exploits will know, I’ve become a regular swimmer. I wanted to make sure that I somewhat kept up my routine while in New York, as in previous years when I’ve attempted to adopt a swimming regime, it has been leaving to go on holiday for a week and breaking my routine that has scuppered it. So, after some research, I found that the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Times Square had a swimming pool open to non-guests for a fee. I made my way down there, and got myself a week’s pass sorted out. It’s a great wee pool. The pool itself wasn’t as good as my local one in Burnside. It was a good bit smaller, and very highly chlorinated. But what made it superior was how it was managed. Everything all split up into lanes, so everyone had their own space, and quiet, too. And everyone in the pool wanted to actually swim, rather than stand still in the middle of the pool for a chat, or float around on their back oblivious to people swimming into their path. Plus, the views were great. It was up on a 15th floor penthouse of the hotel, with wall-length windows overlooking Times Square, and a big glass ceiling with the massive surrounding skyscrapers looking around you. The only caveat was that wearing a swimming cap in the pool was compulsory. So, I looked like a bit of a twat, even moreso than usual. But to be honest, afterwards my hair wasn’t as destroyed as it usually is by pool chlorine, so I’m thinking I may keep the cap as part of my swim ensemble. I had a nice, invigorating swim, devoid of weirdos or toe-curling predicaments: I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed!
After my morning swim, I browsed in a few shops, then headed back to my hotel to dump my trunks and stuff. Then I headed out for lunch, opting for another entry on James’ burger list: Five Guys Burgers and Fries. It’s a US chain restaurant, and had more of the fast food diner vibe I was expecting. But while not as upmarket and pricey as Five Napkin Burger, I may have actually enjoyed Five Guys more. Don’t get me wrong, the five Napkin Burger was ace too (though for a veteran eater like myself, it was more the 1 1/2-2 Napkin Burger), but there was something I really loved about Five Guys’ simple presentation. You get to choose your toppings. I went for a cheeseburger with onions and mayonnaise. I didn’t want to get too much to distract from the flavour of the burger itself, which was mouthwateringly good. It appears that double cheeseburger was served as standard, dissolving in your mouth as you bit into it. But the piece de resistance was the serving of fries. I got spicy Cajun fries, top notch, and given that I’m used to getting meagre helpings in fast food places, I was surprised to get a cup jam packed with fries, then another massive scoop emptied into my doggy bag on top of them. The fries could have been a meal in themselves, and a tasty meal at that. If I lived in New York, Five Napkins might be somewhere I go for a special occasion, or maybe take a date, but Five Guys is where I’d likely eat on a regular basis. Pure comfort food.
But this isn’t John VS Burger! After lunch, I did a bit of shopping, picking up some T-shirts and a pair of jeans from American Eagle Outfitters, a couple of T-shirts from Quiksilver and another pair of jeans from the Levi Store, as well as some swanky new blue swimming jammers from Modell’s Sporting Goods, completing the day’s successful swimming theme. I then had to struggle to pick up a super-cheap throwaway phone to replace the phone I accidentally left at home, which required an annoying amount of running around. After another visit to the hotel to dump my day’s haul, I made plans for the night. I’d considered a few options beforehand, including going to a stand-up comedy show at Caroline’s or the Comedy Cellar, or going to a music gig at the Bowery Ballroom, but I’d settled on going to Film Forum, a famous independent cinema venue, to see a 1970s Australian horror film called Wake in Fright. But by Tuesday night I wasn’t sure if I could be bothered with the subway trip out there, so I opted for going to see Dredd at the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square instead.
With my night’s activity decided, I headed out to grab some dinner. My plan had been to try sushi in New York, but the place I had noted down, when I got there, seemed too stuffy and overpriced. But on my way to find somewhere else, I stumbled across Kodama Sushi on 301 West 45th Street. It looked much more like the authentic sushi bar I was looking for, and the prices were reasonable too. I decided to give it a try, and I’m glad I did. What a dining experience! When I ordered the sushi platter, I got to sit at the bar and watched the chef prepare my sushi fresh right in front of me, slicing it all up and arranging it, then handing the plate over to me when ready. It was the best sushi I’ve ever had. Highly recommended for anyone visiting New York City and wanting to try something different than the usual fare. I shall be back next time I visit!
And then, after some wandering around trying to find it, it was time to go see Dredd. I didn’t think I’d have the chance to see it in cinemas. I kept on missing opportunities to see it in the Uk, and with its shoddy box office reception in the Us I didn’t expect it to still be showing. To be honest, my expectations weren’t all that high. But it ended up being a cracking film. The trailers made it seem like it was going to be a pale shadow of The Raid, and it covers similar ground. But while the martial arts instant classic remains the superior film, there are some elements that Dredd pulls off just as well, even better in a couple of cases. And it pisses all over the 90s Stallone movie. I’m glad I saw it in the cinema.
Overall, Tuesday had been a productive day where I’d got quite a lot of stuff from my want-list. Wednesday would be my last full day of being left to my own devices before con season began!
It’s been a while since I did one of these…. but I warned you they wouldn’t be on anything near a regular schedule! I’ve got a really nice response to the ones I’ve done so far, so thank you for the comments. This strip is less an account of a single encounter as it is a recurring problem on the occasions I attempt backstroke in the pool. I’m a bit neurotic about doing it, only doing it when I’m in a lane of my own or the pool’s empty. But even then my nerves get the better of me!
You don’t have to have been going swimming long before you become a hardened cynic as regards the various recurring annoyances you typically encounter at your local pool. These “pool nuisances” will surely be a feature of several of these Tales from the Pool strips in the future. I’ve encountered this particular guy twice now. If it happens a third time, I’m sorely tempted to just block his exit and hold him underwater.
If you’re a friend of mine on Facebook, you might be aware that I’ll periodically write about going swimming at the local leisure centre, and some of the bizarre encounters I have at the pool. I enjoy swimming, it’s good exercise and relaxing when I get a chance to really get into it. But sometimes the variety of pool nuisances and strange characters that also populate a community pool get in the way of that. My experiences, ranging from the annoying to the slightly surreal, make me wonder if the left turn up the road to the leisure centre in fact takes me into some Lynchian dreamscape.
Some people have suggested I try making a webcomic out of them, so I’ve finally relented and decided to give it a go. Now, I am absolutely NOT an artist. I’m a writer, and as you’ll see, I stick to the writing with good reason. But for something silly like this, I figured I’d be as well just doing my own art. Plus, I’m not sure if anyone else wants to draw me in speedos. I don’t propose to keep any kind of regular schedule for this, but perhaps every so often – either when reminiscing about some past oddity, or being confronted by a new one – I’ll try drawing a new edition of Tales from the Pool. Enjoy!